Cecil is a funny dude. When we first got him, he was either ticked off, or really, really pompous. At the time I couldn’t tell which but looking back, I imagine it was a bit of both due to being jobless and locked in a stall. He was donated to CANTER nearly 2 years ago, by his lifetime owners. He had won a bunch of money including two decent stakes races, but at 9 years old he irritated an old injury and needed to retire. He was sent to CANTER Mid Atlantic with something extremely important–a paycheck. His owners set aside money to enable us to rehabilitate him properly so we could ensure him a great second career. With a fresh re-bow, Cecil required stall rest and then controlled turnout. Stall Rest is expensive, to say the least at a minimum of 600$ a month, and small-paddock turnout and handwalking isn’t cheap either. Without the donation for his care, we would not have been able to accept Cecil into the CANTER program.
So, we thought Cecil had found a new home, but it just wasn’t going to work out. I have my own thoughts on what made him act like a loony-tunes, including nipping his temporary owner and I’ll say it here, but don’t judge me for my crazy thoughts 🙂
Out at one of our turnout farms in Maryland, there are about 25 horses in one pasture. About half of these horses are thoroughbreds, the rest are retired QH’s, TWH’s, Drafties, Saddlebreds–you name it. Without fail, the thoroughbreds all clump together in one big gang. You will never find half of the TB’s on one side of the 100-acre field, and the rest on the other side, it just never happens. You will also not find a quarter horse or drafty among them, unless they’ve somehow earned their “TB colors”. It’s a very rare circumstance and I’m certain there is some kind of group decision to let a non-TB into the clan. I’d LOVE to know what the requirements are–can you imagine?
“Ok, tell Biff if he wants to join the club he has to run down to the horse slide, go down on his butt, roll in the creek, break a branch off the tree and poke old Remus in the butt, then run back to the top of the hill without getting kicked”
So, back to Cecil. I had to tell you that little ditty so I could tell you my thoughts. Cecil is, in a word, quiet. He’s stupidly quiet, particularly to ride. In fact, the one time I stuck Kelly on him to Crash Test Dummy (CTD) so we could find out if he’d tolerate beginners, I ended up laughing so hard at her effort to get him to canter that I wet my pants. It’s true. Anyhow, Cecil was turned out with a retired, older quarter horse and wasn’t getting ridden very often, and I’m pretty darn certain he plain got bored, both with his company and his lifestyle. Stakes horses are a special type–they know they are special, and they really take offense to just sitting in a field with a retired quarter horse. Of all insults! So, Cecil started creating his own fun–running and leaping and galloping and sliding and rearing and chewing the fence. Err, Cecil, the running and playing? That’s all fine and dandy. Not so keen on the fence eating. Yes, Cecil is a *VERY* minor cribber, but he wasn’t cribbing, he was eating the fenceboards. Turns out they don’t really make collars for that 😛
So, with trailer in hand I went and picked up the chunky man, and stuck him in a field with two other TB’s, and took him riding the next day. Whatdya know!? Quiet, happy Cecil again. No running (though I love when they run around!), no rearing, no nipping, no wood eating–just normal happy smiley-face Cecil that runs up to the fence for treats and scritches.
CANTER often gets asked if we will allow our horses to live as the only horse on the property, and the answer is usually no. This is a really good explanation for that policy. Horses are herd animals, and thoroughbreds even more so. Does this mean everybody needs their own herd of OTTBs? Well, no, but wouldn’t that be AWESOME!?!?!?!?! But a horse does need to be in a place that suits his personality, his work ethic, and his need for friends.
If you ever find yourself bringing home a horse who changes personality pretty drastically, it’s a great idea to take a look at what has changed, and what you can do to make their life happy for them. They crave routine, action and attention. Anything less might have you replacing a few fence boards 😉